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Indian Community Shines at the Columbus Museum Opening

March 2005
Indian Community Shines at the Columbus Museum Opening

An important breakthrough in educating the Columbus community about the culture of India took place when a three-month-long festival opened on February 5, 2005 at The Columbus Museum, one of the largest museums in the Southeast. The Indo-US Cultural Association joined with The Columbus Museum in an unprecedented partnership to host a series of events highlighting various aspects of India's wondrous cultural diversity.

The evening opened with a gala reception attended by over 300 people who were a balanced mix between the mainstream and the Indian American community. As the guests entered the museum doorway, Indian women dressed in their fine sarees warmly extended their pranam to each guest.

The museum entrance was adorned with a toran, and the foyer was decorated with a large rangoli, Indian fabrics, and statues of deities. Some westerners were also dressed in Indian clothing. A joyous and festive mood permeated throughout the museum galleries.

Dr. Bipin Patel, Chairman of the specially formed Indian Advisory Board to The Columbus Museum for the Festival, had nothing but praise for the evening. "This [event] has been excellent, beyond our imagination."

The gathering soon packed the downstairs auditorium to listen in pin-drop silence to a forty-five minute slide presentation on Indian culture by Columbus native, Robert Arnett, author and photographer of the award-winning India Unveiled and the award-winning children's book Finders Keepers?

A guest from Atlanta, Bharat Shah, commented, "The depth that Robert Arnett provided us in his slide presentation, in his comments, in his question and answers were much deeper and fulfilling to me than anything else that I had been exposed to."

The Curator of Education at The Columbus Museum, Kristen Miller-Zohn, was equally impressed. "Robert did a wonderful job, and it was very interesting to see his personal experience. I think there are many people here tonight who've never been to India before, and he let the Columbus community know what we couldn't understand about India."

The slide presentation was followed by an arati, led by women from the Columbus Indian community. This officially opened the photo exhibit entitled Across India: Selected Photographs from Robert Arnett's India Unveiled, on view from February 6 to May 8, 2005.

Across India presents more than 40 cibachrome photographs that feature a compelling portrait of India and its rich and complex cultural legacy. Arnett's images powerfully document the country's diverse peoples and religions while capturing its spectacular and dramatically varied landscape. Across India is an outgrowth of Arnett's acclaimed book, India Unveiled.

Robert Arnett and Smita Turakhia, illustrator of Arnett's award-winning children's book Finders Keepers? signed copies of their books for guests who admired the culture and wanted to better understand India.

The Director of The Columbus Museum, Tom Butler, was visibly pleased. "I loved seeing this huge community outcome. I want to see Indians come to the museum, be a part of the museum, and feel comfortable. I think we have achieved that tonight. The exhibition speaks for itself. The turnout is fabulous, fabulous! The mood is very positive," He beamed.

The evening concluded with a delicious Indian buffet dinner catered by the Mayuri Restaurant of Columbus.

It was an evening where the cultural boundaries dissolved as the guests warmly mingled with each other. Everyone went home with a better understanding of the underlying unity of East and West.

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